Title:
PACKAGING MACHINE WITH HOSE DOWN CONSTRUCTION
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A package wrapping machine includes a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation. A support is provided for holding rolled film, the support located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station. A film grip assembly is used for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation. A plurality of sealed components are configured to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the components during a spray cleaning operation.



Inventors:
Monnier, Carla A. (Vandalia, OH, US)
Whitby, Michael A. (West Milton, OH, US)
Jones, Thomas P. (Wilmington, OH, US)
Trouteaud, Lee E. (Tipp City, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/931482
Publication Date:
06/12/2008
Filing Date:
10/31/2007
Assignee:
Premark FEG L.L.C. (Wilmington, DE, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
53/203, 134/42
International Classes:
B65B11/00; B65B65/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
PARADISO, JOHN ROGER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THOMPSON HINE LLP / ITW (DAYTON, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A package wrapping machine comprising: a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation; a support for holding rolled film, the support located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station; a film grip assembly for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation; and a plurality of sealed components configured to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the components during a spray cleaning operation.

2. The package wrapping machine of claim 1, wherein one sealed component is a scale assembly comprising: a weigher assembly including a platform upon which a product sits; a load cell operatively connected to the weigher assembly such that weight of the product applies a force to the load cell which is converted into a corresponding electrical signal by the load cell; the load cell being located within an enclosure formed between a cover and a base; and a sealing member located between the cover and the base to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the enclosure.

3. The package wrapping machine of claim 2, wherein another sealed component is a control box comprising: a top, a bottom and sides connecting the top and the bottom wherein at least one of the top, bottom and sides has an array of openings through which cables pass; and gaskets positioned within the openings, the gaskets including a cable opening that receive the cables, the gaskets configured to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the control box.

4. The package wrapping machine of claim 3, wherein another sealed component is a motor comprising: a housing; an output shaft extending through an opening in the housing; and a sealing member located between the housing and the output shaft to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the housing.

5. The package wrapping machine of claim 2, wherein another sealed component is a camera assembly comprising: a housing; a camera mounted within the housing; a transparent plate through which the camera views a package; and a sealing member located between the housing and the transparent plate to inhibit infiltration of liquid between the housing and the transparent plate.

6. The package wrapping machine of claim 2 further comprising a printer that is used to print weight information determined using the load cell; and a liquid impermeable cover that covers the printer and inhibits passage of liquid therethrough.

7. The package wrapping machine of claim 1 further comprising a wash and rinse system integrated within the package wrapping machine.

8. The package wrapping machine of claim 7, wherein the wash and rinse system comprises a conduit that deliver liquid to a plurality of nozzles that are located to deliver sprays of liquid onto desired locations.

9. The package wrapping machine of claim 8, wherein at least one desired location is a location that comes into contact with a food product being wrapped.

10. A method of cleaning a package wrapping machine including a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation, a support for holding rolled film, the support located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station and a film grip assembly for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation, the method comprising: disconnecting power to the package wrapping machine; attaching a protective cover about at least an interface portion of the package wrapping machine; delivering pressurized liquid to the wrapping station of the package wrapping machine using a conduit connected to a source of liquid; and inhibiting infiltration of liquid into multiple components of the package wrapping machine by providing components configured with sealing structures.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the step of delivering pressurized liquid includes delivering the pressurized liquid to the wrapping station using the conduit where the conduit is located within the package wrapping machine.

12. The method of claim 10 further comprising attaching the protective cover about a printer of the package wrapping machine.

13. The method of claim 10, wherein providing components with sealing structures includes providing a scale assembly comprising a weigher assembly including a platform upon which a product sits; a load cell operatively connected to the weigher assembly such that weight of the product applies a force to the load cell which is converted into a corresponding electrical signal by the load cell; the load cell being located within an enclosure formed between a cover and a base; and a sealing member located between the cover and the base to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the enclosure.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein providing components with sealing structures includes providing a control box comprising a top, a bottom and sides connecting the top and the bottom wherein at least one of the top, bottom and sides has an array of openings through which cables pass; and gaskets positioned within the openings, the gaskets including a cable opening that receive the cables, the gaskets configured to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the control box.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein providing components with sealing structures includes providing a motor comprising a housing; an output shaft extending through an opening in the housing; and a sealing member located between the housing and the output shaft to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the housing.

16. The method of claim 14, wherein providing components with sealing structures includes providing a camera assembly comprising a housing; a camera mounted within the housing; a transparent plate through which the camera views a package; and a sealing member located between the housing and the transparent plate to inhibit infiltration of liquid between the housing and the transparent plate.

17. A package wrapping machine comprising: a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation; a support for holding rolled film, the support located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station; a film grip assembly for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation; a weigher assembly including a platform upon which a product sits; a load cell operatively connected to the weigher assembly such that weight of the product applies a force to the load cell which is converted into a corresponding electrical signal by the load cell; the load cell being located within an enclosure formed between a cover and a base; a sealing member located between the cover and the base to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the enclosure; and an integrated wash and rinse system delivers liquid to the wrapping station during a washing operation.

18. The package wrapping machine of claim 17 further comprising a housing; a camera mounted within the housing; a transparent plate through which the camera views a package; and a sealing member located between the housing and the transparent plate to inhibit infiltration of liquid between the housing and the transparent plate.

19. The package wrapping machine of claim 17 further comprising a printer that is used to print weight information determined using the load cell; and a liquid impermeable cover that covers the printer and inhibits passage of liquid therethrough.

20. The package wrapping machine of claim 17, wherein the wash and rinse system comprises a conduit that delivers liquid to a nozzle that is located to deliver a spray of liquid toward the wrapping station.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/873,346, filed Dec. 7, 2006 and to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/912,496, filed Apr. 18, 2007, the details of both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This application relates generally to packaging machines for placing film around products and more particularly to a packaging machine that can be cleaned through delivery of a pressurized liquid.

BACKGROUND

Packaging machines are frequently used to automatically wrap film about product, such as food items. The packaging machines often include a film gripper that grips and pulls the film from a roll of film and a folder that folds the film underneath the product. Various control systems and sensors may be employed, for example, to control operation of the gripper and to sense product location.

In circumstances where food product such as meat is being wrapped, it is necessary to clean the packaging machine. Because of the numerous electronics, control systems, mechanical components such as bearings, motors, etc., cleaning the packaging machine can be a somewhat delicate process.

SUMMARY

In an aspect, a package wrapping machine includes a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation. A support is provided for holding rolled film, the support located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station. A film grip assembly is used for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation. A plurality of sealed components are configured to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the components during a spray cleaning operation.

In another aspect, a method of cleaning a package wrapping machine including a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation, a support for holding rolled film, the support located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station and a film grip assembly for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation is provided. The method includes disconnecting power to the package wrapping machine. A protective cover is attached about at least an interface portion of the package wrapping machine. Pressurized liquid is delivered to the wrapping station of the package wrapping machine using a hose connected to a source of liquid. Infiltration of liquid is inhibited into multiple components of the package wrapping machine by providing components configured with sealing structures.

In another aspect, a package wrapping machine includes a wrapping station where film is to be manipulated during a packaging operation. A support for holding rolled film is provided. The support is located to permit film to be drawn into the wrapping station. A film grip assembly grips at least one edge of film during at least part of a wrapping operation. A weigher assembly includes a platform upon which a product sits. A load cell is operatively connected to the weigher assembly such that weight of the product applies a force to the load cell which is converted into a corresponding electrical signal by the load cell. The load cell is located within an enclosure formed between a cover and a base. A sealing member is located between the cover and the base to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the enclosure. An integrated wash and rinse system delivers liquid to the wrapping station during a washing operation.

The details of one or more embodiments are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features, objects, and advantages will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side, perspective view of an embodiment of a package wrapping machine;

FIG. 2 is a side, perspective view of the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1 showing various components;

FIG. 3 is a top view of an embodiment of an in-feed portion of the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A is a section view of the in-feed portion along line A-A of FIG. 3;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a motor for use in the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4A is a partial, section view of the motor along line A-A of FIG. 4;

FIG. 5 is a plan view of an embodiment of a control box of the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1 with its cover removed;

FIG. 6 is a bottom view of the control box of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a grommet for use with the control box of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7A is a section view of the grommet along line A-A of FIG. 7;

FIG. 8 is an exploded view of an embodiment of a sensor assembly for use with the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a shaft and housing assembly for use in the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 9A is a section view of the shaft and housing assembly along line A-A of FIG. 9;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a camera assembly for use in the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 10A is a partial, section view of the camera assembly along line A-A of FIG. 10;

FIG. 11 is a diagrammatic illustration of the packaging machine of FIG. 1 being cleaned, rinsed and/or sanitized;

FIGS. 12 and 13 are perspective views of embodiments of a liquid-impermeable cover for use with the package wrapping machine of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 14 illustrates a package wrapping machine including an embodiment of an integrated wash and rinse system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a package wrapping machine 10 includes an in-feed portion 12 at which a product 14 such as food can be introduced to the machine 10, a wrap station 16 at which the product 14 can be wrapped, e.g., by a wrap film such as a food contact grade film, and an out-feed portion 18 at which the wrapped product can be accessed to remove the product 14 from the machine 10. The wrap station 16 includes an adjacent support for holding rolled film and mechanisms (e.g., film grippers and underfold plates) for manipulating the film during a packaging operation. The support is located to permit film to be drawn into the packaging station and a film grip assembly (not shown) is used for gripping at least one edge of film during at least part of a packaging operation.

Referring also to FIG. 2 and as will be described in greater detail below, the package wrapping machine includes various components such as a scale assembly 19, motors 20, connectors 22, frame 24, control boxes 26, sensor housings 28, bearings 30 and camera assembly 32 that are sealed from liquid (and/or formed of a corrosion resistant material such as stainless steel or anodized aluminum) so that the package wrapping machine can be sprayed or hosed down with pressurized liquid, for example, from a hose (e.g., at about 15 psi or higher, such as at about 20 psi or higher, such as at about 30 psi or higher, such as at about 40 psi or higher) during a cleaning operation without damaging the components. It should be noted that while the packaging machine 10 may include more than one of each sealed component, only one such component is hereafter described.

Referring to FIG. 3, in-feed portion 12 includes a first intake conveyor 21 and a second intake conveyor 23 positioned to receive the product from the first intake conveyor. Weigher rod assemblies 25 are located between belts 27 of the first intake conveyor 21. Each weigher rod assembly 25 includes a platform 29 on which the product sits for a weighing operation.

Referring to FIG. 3A, the weigher rod assemblies 25 are operatively connected to a load cell 31 through a platter 33 that is mechanically fastened to the load cell. In some embodiments, the load cell 31 is a strain gage type load cell. Weight of a product on the weigher rod assemblies 25 causes stress in the load cell 31 which is converted to an electrical signal provided to a processor (see weigher board assembly 45). The processor processes the electrical signal to provide a corresponding weight value.

As can be seen by FIG. 3A, the load cell 31 is located within an enclosure 35. The enclosure 35 is formed between a cover 37 and a U-shaped channel 39 formed by base 41. A gasket 43 is located between the cover 37 and the base 41. The gasket 43 forms a seal that is used to inhibit infiltration of liquid into the enclosure 35 during a cleaning operation.

Referring now to FIG. 4, motor 20 includes a closed housing 34, an output shaft 36 and connectors 22 that connect the motor to a power supply. Connectors 22 are covered with a continuous jacket 46 or shrink tubing and secured at the housing 34 by a grommet 48 (e.g., formed of rubber). Jacket 46 and grommet 48 inhibit liquid infiltration into the motor 20 between the connector 22 and the housing 34. The motor 20 may be operatively connected to, for example, a gripper assembly, a conveyor, an elevator, etc. to effectuate its movement.

Referring to FIG. 4A, a seal 38 is disposed about the output shaft 36 between a bearing 40 and the housing 34, adjacent to shaft opening 42. Seal 38 is located in a channel 46 formed in the housing 34. Sealing lips 44 may be lubricated with a lubricant such as H-1 rated grease to facilitate movement of the output shaft relative to the seal 38. Seal 38 inhibits liquid infiltration between the output shaft 36 and the housing 34. A suitable commercially available seal 38 is available from The Timken Company. A suitable material for forming the seal is, for example, nitrile.

FIG. 5 illustrates a control box 26 with its cover 50 (see FIG. 1) removed. Control box 26 includes a number of components such as a fan assembly 52, relay 54, circuit breaker 56, stepper board 58, motor board assembly 60, etc. that should not come into contact with liquid. To inhibit liquid from entering the control box 26, grommets 62 are provided that seal cable openings 64 through which cables (not shown) pass at a bottom side 66 of the control box (see FIG. 6). In some embodiments, a seal (represented by element 67) is provided about the periphery of the control box 26 between the cover 50 and ledge 69.

Referring to FIG. 7, the grommets 62 are generally U-shaped having a first portion 68 and a second portion 70. A cut 72 separates the first portion 68 from the second portion 70 and intersects a cable opening 74 so that the first and second portions can be separated from each other to position a cable in the cable opening. While element 72 is referred to as a “cut”, the cut 72 may be molded along with the rest of the grommet 62 rather by cutting or otherwise machining the cut between the first and second portions 68, 70. In some embodiments, the grommet 62 is formed such that the first portion 68 and second portion 70 are biased away from each other slightly (e.g., about 15 degrees).

A notch 76 is formed into the periphery of the grommet 62, the notch being sized to receive an opening forming edge 78 of the cable opening 64 (FIG. 6). The notch 76 also facilitates the sliding of the grommet 62 into the open-ended cable opening 64 of FIG. 6 and proper positioning therein. The grommet 62 includes an enlarged overhang portion 80 that overhangs the notch 76 and seats against the control box 26 to form a tortuous path that seals the cable opening 64. In embodiments where the first portion and second portion 68 and 70 are biased away from each other, such bias provides an outward force applied by the grommet 62 against the opening forming edge 78 of the cable opening 64.

Referring to FIG. 7A, cable opening 74 in the grommet 62 includes a necked-down portion 82 formed by a flexible, elastic collar 84. Preferably, the necked-down portion has a minimum, undeflected diameter that is less than the cable located in the cable opening 74. Collar 84 can deflect radially outwardly in the direction of arrow 86 to allow for passage of the cable thereby. Collar 84 is elastic and biased against the cable located in the cable opening 74 to form a liquid-tight seal thereby inhibiting liquid infiltration between the cable and grommet 62.

Referring to FIG. 8, sensor 88 (e.g., infrared) is disposed within the sealed sensor housing 28. Sensor housing 28 includes a rear part 90, a cover part 92 and a lens 94. The cover part 92 and the lens 94 are clear so that the sensor 88 can sense a package at the in-feed portion 12. The cover part 92 is welded (e.g., ultrasonically) to the rear part 90 to provide a liquid-tight seal, which inhibits infiltration of liquid into the housing that could damage the sensor 88.

Referring now to FIGS. 9 and 9A, the package wrapping machine 10 includes various sealed bearings 30. In FIG. 9A, a shaft and housing assembly 96 includes a shaft 98 connected at each end to pulleys 100, 102 and a housing 104. The shaft 98 can rotate relative to the housing 104, which causes rotation of the pulleys 100, 102. Bearings 30 allow for rotation of the shaft 98. The bearings 30 are sealed from liquid using seal 110 located at an end of the housing 104, between the housing and the shaft 98. Sealing lips 112 may be lubricated with a lubricant such as H-1 rated grease to facilitate movement of the shaft 98 relative to the seal 110.

Referring to FIG. 10, camera assembly 32 is used to size an incoming package (see FIG. 1). Camera assembly 32 includes a first camera 114, a second camera 116 and a control board 118 all mounted to a sealed camera enclosure 120 (FIG. 10 shows the camera enclosure 120 with its cover removed). Clear plates 122 and 124 (e.g., formed of a polycarbonate thermoplastic resin such as LEXAN) allow for visualization of an incoming package by the cameras 114 and 116. Referring to FIG. 10A, a gasket 126 is provided between the plates 122 and 124 and the enclosure 120. The gasket 126 inhibits infiltration of liquid into the enclosure 120, which can damage the cameras 114 and 116 and control board 118.

Referring to FIG. 11 and as noted above, the sealed components allow the package wrapping machine 10 to be hosed down for cleaning. In some embodiments, chemicals may be added to water that are delivered to the package wrapping machine. For example, soap may be added to the water for cleaning and a sanitizer (e.g., a chlorine solution wherein 200 ppm of chlorine is present in the water) may be added to the water for sanitization. In some embodiments, the chemicals may be added to the water by a hose attachment which may include a control that allows for controlled delivery of the chemicals. Once chemicals are delivered, water may be used to rinse the package wrapping machine 10.

Referring still to FIG. 11, in one embodiment, a method of cleaning the package wrapping machine 10 includes disconnecting the package wrapping machine from its power source. Covers 130 and 132 may be placed over a console 134 and printer 136. The covers 130 and 132 are liquid impermeable and inhibit liquid from contacting the console 134 and printer 136 (see FIGS. 12 and 13 and associated discussion below) during the cleaning operation.

An operator connects a hose 142 to a water source to provide water to a nozzle 144 connected to the hose. In some embodiments, the hose is connected to a chemical delivery device 146, which is in turn connected to the nozzle 144 (or includes a nozzle). The chemical delivery device 146 may include a control 148 that allows the operator to control whether or not (and what type of) chemicals are delivered or whether water only is delivered. In this embodiment, the chemical delivery device 146 allows for operator selection of water only, soap and water and sanitizer and water.

Initially, the operator may select soap and water to be delivered using the nozzle 144 and chemical delivery device 146. Soap and water may be directed onto package wrapping machine 10 at the in-feed station 12, wrap station 16 and out-feed station 18 to clean, for example, food particles such as meat from the various components. A removable (or openable) canopy 152 and one or more openable doors 154 may be included to provide additional access to the wrap station 16 including elevator region 156 (see FIG. 2). Soap and water may also be delivered to the outside 150 of the package wrapping machine.

Once soap and water are delivered satisfactorily, the control 148 may be changed so that water only is delivered to rinse the soap from the package wrapping machine 10. Typically, the operator will deliver rinse water to areas of the package wrapping machine 10 to which soap was delivered so that the various components are rinsed of soap. After the soap is rinsed, the operator may change the control 148 so that sanitizer and water are delivered to the package wrapping machine 10, particularly at the in-feed station 12, out-feed station 18 and wrap station 16. In some embodiments, the sanitizer is not rinsed from the package wrapping machine 10. The above-described hose down construction allows for improved cleaning and sanitization of the package wrapping machine while decreasing the effort involved to clean the machine 10.

Referring to FIGS. 12 and 13, the liquid impermeable covers 130 and 132 may be used to cover the console 134 and printer 136, respectively (see FIG. 1) and protect the console and printer from the liquid. Cover 130 includes hook and loop fasteners 138 for securing the cover to the console and a loop 140 for hanging the cover, for example, when not in use. Cover 132 also includes a loop 140 for hanging the cover 132.

Referring now to FIG. 14, in an alternative embodiment, the package wrapping machine 10 includes a wash and rinse system 162 integrated within the package wrapping machine. The wash and rinse system 162 includes conduit 164 that delivers fluid to an array of nozzles 166. The nozzles 166 may be located to deliver sprays of fluid onto desired locations within the package wrapping machine, for example, that come into contact with a food product being wrapped, such as meat. As shown, the majority of the nozzles 166 are concentrated at the tray in-feed portion and at the tray wrapping portion of the package wrapping machine, however, other arrangements are possible.

In some embodiments, the wash and rinse system 162 includes a chemical delivery device 168. The chemical delivery device 168 can deliver various chemicals (e.g., soap and/or sanitizer) to water flowing through the conduit 164. In one embodiment, the chemical delivery device 160 may be controlled automatically by a controller, for example, using a timer such that soap, sanitizer and/or rinse water are delivered for pre-selected periods of time. A staged wash process may be utilized where various timed cycles include pre-wash, wash, rinse and sanitization cycles, as examples. It may also be possible for an operator to control chemical delivery.

The wash and rinse system 162 may utilize a pump 170 for pressurizing the fluid. In some embodiments, the wash and rinse system 162 does not utilize a pump. For example, the wash and rinse system 162 may be capable of utilizing water line pressure by connecting the wash and rinse system to a hose spigot.

It is to be clearly understood that the above description is intended by way of illustration and example only and is not intended to be taken by way of limitation, and that changes and modifications are possible. For example, it may be undesirable to direct liquid onto certain areas of the package wrapping machine 10 such as within the film support region 160 where the rolls of film are housed (see FIG. 1). Accordingly, other embodiments are possible and modifications and changes could be made without departing from the scope of this application.